Washington, D.C. Carnegie’s Larry Nittler of Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism has been appointed deputy principal investigator of the MESSENGER mission to Mercury. Principal investigator Sean Solomon, also of Carnegie, made the announcement at the first plenary of the 26th science team meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia.


Nittler has been a staff member at Carnegie since 2001. He studies geochemistry of planetary and extraterrestrial materials, including meteorites and interplanetary dust to decipher how the Solar System, galaxy, and ultimately the universe formed. He leads the X-ray spectrometer measurements of Mercury’s surface composition. He has been a member of the MESSENGER team for the past five years, serving as deputy chair of the Geochemistry Discipline Group for the last four years.


Nittler received a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in physics, and a Ph.D. in physics from Washington University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie previously, and worked at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center on the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous Mission before joining the Carnegie staff. He has also led research into analyses of samples from NASA’s Stardust and Genesis missions.


Linda Elkins-Tanton, director of Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism where Nittler resides remarked, “I’m very pleased to be continuing and strengthening the ties between Carnegie and MESSENGER; Larry is an excellent choice for leadership along with science.”

The Carnegie Institution for Science (carnegieScience.edu) has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research since 1902. It is a private, nonprofit organization with six research departments throughout the U.S. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science.


MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. The MESSENGER spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and entered orbit about Mercury on March 17, 2011 (March 18, 2011 UTC), to begin a yearlong study of its target planet. MESSENGER’s extended mission began on March 18, 2012. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, leads the mission as Principal Investigator. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery-class mission for NASA.

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